What Does It Mean That The Sixers Haven't Traded Ben Simmons Yet?
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
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As draft night came and went with the Sixers selecting three somewhat interesting prospects, I found myself unable to muster even a surface-level interest in any of them. Jaden Springer could be good in a few years. Filip Petrusev is a nice selection as a stash. Charles Bassey could be a fun energy guy. But to me, none of that mattered -- I still continue to find myself with Andrew Unterberger-like tunnel vision on the Ben Simmons situation.
Prior to the draft, rumors were flying left and right about the Sixers canvassing the league for offers, and Jason Dumas reported that the Sixers were hoping to trade Simmons during the draft. Things went quiet after that, and while it seemed for a brief moment that the Russell Westbrook trade might open the door to a Bradley Beal blockbuster, things quickly settled back down with reports that Beal is happy staying in Washington.
So, here we are -- heading towards the wilderness of the offseason with Simmons still on the roster, and no exciting rumors on the horizon. Beal looks to be staying put. There have been zero indications that Zach LaVine would be available. The Damian Lillard rumors are dying down. Zach Lowe tweeted last night, and then reiterated on this morning’s Lowe Post podcast, that the Sixers are nowhere close on a Simmons deal.
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If so, where does the team go from here? While I do believe that the Sixers will eventually get a deal done, isn’t it a tad bit worrying that a 25-year-old All-Star who is under contract for four more years has been widely available for weeks and there appears to be zero traction whatsoever?
Maybe free agency and its aftermath will act as another vehicle for a trade. Perhaps the Blazers strike out left and right, and Lillard asks for a trade. The same is also possible to a lesser extent for LaVine and Beal. But in all likelihood, it seems that the Sixers are going to have to move down a tier in terms of what they’re hoping for in return for Simmons -- and even then, I’m not sure how long their list of options will be.
I do think that the Sixers could easily consummate the Simmons for C.J. McCollum and Robert Covington swap at any moment, if they so choose. They could likely find a mid-market team like the Spurs that would give up a fistful of young role players and draft picks. But man, would those be disappointing outcomes in comparison to what the original hope was.
To be clear, I would absolutely do the McCollum/Covington swap if the Lillard/Beal types never become available. But both the organization and the fanbase are going to need an expectation reset in order for that to happen. By all indications, the Sixers’ asking price for Simmons is completely preposterous at the moment. The idea that they’re going to get a James Harden-like return for Simmons is laughable, though it is highly likely that Daryl Morey and company are using this as a negotiating tactic to up Simmons’ value.
In my eyes, things are getting to that time where it’s unrealistic to think that Simmons is going to net another All-Star in return. The absolute best case scenario at the moment seems to be a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or De’Aaron Fox type, and there doesn’t seem to have been any traction on either of them just yet. Gilgeous-Alexander might be available, but the Thunder likely wouldn’t want Simmons, so he would need to be re-routed to a third team, which could complicate things.
Still; I think the bottom line is that we should all consider it a bit concerning that there seems to be absolutely nothing brewing at the moment. We haven’t even gotten to the point where we can narrow down the list of potential destinations to a select group of suitors. The two teams who have generated the most rumors in terms of interest in Simmons have been Toronto and Minnesota, and to me, neither team makes the slightest bit of sense as a trade partner.
A D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley package, as suggested by some, would be a trainwreck. How could Joel Embiid possibly sign an extension to play the rest of his prime surrounded by Tobias Harris, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Seth Curry? That is nowhere near the stratosphere of a championship core.
All of this is to say, I am more pessimistic about the potential haul for Simmons than I was a couple of weeks ago. That is primarily a function of star players (Lillard, Beal, LaVine) not becoming available, but it also has plenty to do with the complete lack of traction on any kind of rumor. If there’s widespread serious interest around the league in Simmons, why haven’t we heard about it?
The word from reporters is that the Sixers are hoping for a Harden-like haul for Simmons. When the James Hardens of the world become available, teams are sniffing around left and right -- Harden himself becoming available generated an immediate bidding war between Philadelphia and Brooklyn. No such bidding war is happening with Simmons; it’s unclear that they’ve even gotten a serious bid. It is likely time to lower expectations all around. They can hope that Lillard or another mystery star demands a trade, in which case the Sixers would be well positioned to make an offer. But barring that unlikely circumstance, I’m becoming increasingly of the belief that we’re going to see an underwhelming Simmons trade some time in the next few weeks.